Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet

We've all seen paragraphs upon paragraphs filled with "Lorem ipsum..." - in templates, font samples and web sites mock-ups.

Whenever someone wants to say "here will be text", they use this "dummy text". But have you ever asked yourself what does it mean?

Well, strictly speaking, it means nothing. It has been used by print typesetters since the 1500s, to demonstrate the quality of their fonts. It's has been alleged that this text was selected because it contains all the available characters in the alphabet and sounds Latin (which it's not) - making it look sophisticated.

But when Richard McClintock, a Latin professor at Hampden-Sydney College started looking for old occurrences of "lorem", he came across a real Latin paragraph. It turns up one of Cicero's writings (specifically "treatise on the theory of ethics" written in 45 BC) starts like this
"Neque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit..." (meaning "There is no one who loves pain itself, who seeks after it and wants to have it, simply because it is pain..." - clearly Cicero never heard of Masochists smile). To read more about Cicero, look at this book recommendation.

The funny thing about "lorem" is that it made the jump across technologies, over 500 years, from typesetting, to print, to typewriters and finally to computers. I wonder if Cicero thought that one day, every person in the world (who has a computer) will have a copy of his treatise.

Read more about it here and visit this site, the Lipsum Generator - tell it how long you want it and it'll generate paragraphs for you. Great for your next web site design project, when you want to see how your CSS holds for long texts.

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